Shetland could be poised to enjoy a bumper tourism season thanks to continuing massive exposure on television and on the internet.
The isles were thrust into the limelight this week when the two-part televised adaptation of Ann Cleeves’ crime novel Red Bones was shown on prime-time television by the BBC.
The unprecedented publicity comes hot on the heels of the dancing Shetland pony advertisement by 3, which recently proved to be an internet sensation. Other recent promotions have also brought the isles on to an international stage.
Steve Mathieson of VisitShetland said a number of people had been asking for guides after seeing the programme.
Speaking to The Shetland Times on Tuesday he said: “Staff today and yesterday have spoken to a few people who have said they’ve seen the programme and have requested our brochures.
“In January we had the Digital Nomad – the digital guy from National Geographic who wrote great things about us, and we had our two ponies in their [Shetland] jumpers, which went viral.
“That was VisitScotland’s first ever viral campaign. That went around the world, and then we had the 3 advertising, when we had the advert with Socks.”
With so much publicity about the detective drama, another programme has largely been forgotten about. But Mr Mathieson said the wildlife programme The Great British Winter, which was presented by Ellie Harrison and focused on Shetland in its weekend showings, had also given the isles a welcome boost.
“It was a good programme and showed some nice Shetland wildlife. Now we’ve got this Shetland drama with the possibility that it might become a series.
“We’ve had a great PR start to the year, and this has all happened between Christmas and the start of the tourist season proper, so it’s all been at the right time for us. We are expecting a good season, we can definitely say that.”
Mr Mathieson admitted to having something of a vested interest in the crime drama. He had worked as an extra on the programme, and was the man who zipped up the body-bag at the beginning of Monday night’s programme.
Around 6.4 million people tuned in on Sunday night to see acclaimed Scots actor Douglas Henshall play detective Jimmy Perez in the much-hyped drama Shetland.
That was enough to give the programme a 25.6 per cent share of the audience, and almost 30 per cent in Scotland alone. It beat off competition from ITV’s Mr Selfridge, which attracted 5.8 million viewers.
Some of the momentum was lost on Monday night, however, with just over five million viewers tuning in to see the concluding part of the crime thriller.
Many who opted not to watch the second instalment may well have turned over to see Broadchurch on ITV, which beat Shetland’s second night by 1.4 million. However, a spokeswoman for the BBC was adamant that Shetland had “held
its own” and had been deemed a success.
She said: “Over two nights we got over eleven and a half million viewers. Broadchurch got about 6.4 million. But in terms of share we got about 21 per cent, and they [ITV] got about 25 per cent, so there wasn’t much in it.
“We did really well, and we got a good response from the audience. They seemed to enjoy it, and they liked the setting as well.
“Over two nights an audience like that is fantastic.”
The mini-series was written by David Kane, who also has credits for work on Taggart and Rebus. Starring roles were given to Shetland actors Steven Robertson and Sandra Voe and there are hopes the show could become a regular series.
Meanwhile, VisitScotland has set up a blog to see what reaction there is to the Shetland-based drama. It can be found at www.visitscotland.com/blog/arts-and-culture/shetland-debuts-on-bbc-one/